Who is Liable for Dog Bite Injuries?

Dog bite cases are an interesting area of law. In British Columbia, if a dog bites someone causing injury, the owner of the dog may be held liable under the legal principle of scienter, or negligence, or the Occupiers Liability Act, RSBC 1996, c. 337 (the “OLA”).

Under scienter, the plaintiff must prove that 1) the defendant was the owner of the dog, 2) the dog had manifested a propensity to cause the type of harm that occurred, and 3) the owner knew of that propensity.

This is not always easy to prove, and it is challenging to establish liability against dog owners as a result. Claims against dog owners in negligence and under the OLA often face similar challenges.

On April 6, 2016 MLA Dr. Andrew Weaver introduced Bill M212, the Animal Liability Act (the “ALA”). The ALA seeks to create a statutory scheme of liability where the dog owner is liable for harm caused by his or her animal regardless of whether the dog had a propensity to cause harm and regardless of whether the owner had prior knowledge of such propensity.

It should be noted that the ALA is not yet law (and may not become law), and the current state of the law remains that which is discussed above.

For an analysis of how courts have interpreted the law in dog bite cases have a read of the reasons in Bloski v. Chopyk 2016 BCSC 1022.

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